Friday, September 23, 2005

The Courage Conference and a seminary environment

I did something last month that may speak to the question of whether a same-sex-attracted man is capable of life in a seminary situation -- probably the main argument in favor of this per se rule against "gay priests." I went to the annual conference of Courage for the first time in August. It was a mixed-sex environment, so not exactly like a seminary (though it was mostly male, I'd guess about 2-to-1. And there were a lot of priests there). Still it was structured around "Churchy" things and I knew, as a point of fact, that nearly every single man around me was same-sex attracted.

I have a problem with self-abuse, to the point of its being an addictive compulsion -- I know backwards and forwards that it's wrong, and yet I do it anyway with a clear head. On average daily -- and so on some days more than once. So you'd think, and a Church per se rule would seem to endorse, that my being surrounded by a bunch of other same-sex-attracted guys in an environment with some resemblance to a seminary-type situation would be like putting the crack before the lab rat.

But no. To put it in the most crass way possible (moi?), I enjoyed 10 days of chastity -- before during and after. It was the anticipation and later fact of a holy environment, with daily Mass and availability of confession, *despite* the temptations of the people surrounding me. The whole weekend was just ... hopeful. It was more than fellowship, more than the holy environment and daily sacraments, but my just being able to *be* for four days without any fear or shame or worry or Angst. To breathe easily with everybody always already knowing the thing I hate most about myself and most fear others knowing/guessing/finding out. I hate the word "liberating" (it carries the aura of Che Guevara posters), but that's what it was. I was not sunk in my customary gloom, trapped in the whirlpool of frustration, anger, acting out, despair and depression.

Or in a phrase: a holy, at-ease environment trumps the temptations of SSA, when it's provided, available, and we cooperate with it.

4 comments:

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

To breathe easily with everybody always already knowing the thing I hate most about myself and most fear others knowing/guessing/finding out.

I can relate to that (though with me it hasn't been always the same thing I most feared others finding out about me, but several different things, that were eased by being able to say them to another person).

A. Soul said...

I hate to make life more complicated for you, but masturbation actually decreases the risk of prostate cancer. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn3942.
If you enjoyed flossing, would you feel guilty about doing it once or twice a day?

Susan Peterson said...

I think if seminaries really were holy places with all there believing in the Church's teaching and trying to follow them, no matter what their orientation, your observations might well apply to that situation.

But as we all know, quite a few seminaries in recent years have not been full of people who believed in the church's teaching.
Men actually said that celibacy only referred to male-female relationships. Or they justified being sexually active with each other in other ways. You know all this. So now, when we want to change this, it is hard to know how to go about it. For myself, I like openness and truthfulness, so I would prefer making all seminarians speak and sign some kind of a statement that they accept all the teachings of the church about sexuality issues including...well, make your own list, but at least those which they might be tempted to violate. In that atmosphere those with SSA would not have to hide it, although of course it shouldn't be the main part of their identity or something they talk about all the time,just as a lot of heterosexual sex talk wouldn't be healthy either. To be honest, I personally don't know if homosexuals find it harder to be celibate. I think this probably differs so much between individuals that a statement about a group might not be accurate.
I am sorry by the way, for the tone of some of the comments over on Amy Welborn's blog.

But, "a soul" it doesn't matter if masturbation helps prevent prostate cancer.
The traditional teaching of the church that it is wrong wouldn't be changed by that. For instance, nuns get breast cancer at a higher rate than women who have had children; do you think that is a reason to give up on dedicated religious life for women?

CourageMan said...

Soul:

Susan stole my response. It's wrong, no matter what the marginal health benefits may be.


Susan:

There is no need for you (or anyone) to apologize for others' actions. But thanks nevertheless. As I say, it was sinus-clearing (though Amy herself has IMHO struck exactly the right tone and stance).

I would prefer making all seminarians speak and sign some kind of a statement that they accept all the teachings of the church about sexuality issues including...well, make your own list, but at least those which they might be tempted to violate.

They already do that implicitly -- by promising to uphold all that the Church teaches. Still, I agree that an explicit public vow against specific acts might not be a bad idea. Those who support Church teaching will have no difficulty with it (as I said, they already do it implicitly). And it'll require dissenters to "go on the record" and say something "hateful and homophobic" et al, which hopefully will discourage at least a few and smoke out a few by how they see it.